The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggle Against Urban Inequality By Rhonda Y. Williams
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)
In the book The Politics of Public Housing the author Rhonda Y. Williams sets out to explore the details of the first hand experiences of black women who were recipients of social welfare programs like public housing. Following the New Deal era black women with low-incomes were dependent upon help from growing government programs. The tradeoffs weren’t fair being that “The government, however, offered African-American women and their families a mixed bag of opportunity and discrimination, possibilities and restrictions, freedoms and surveillance” (p. 4). This book poses questions about how these women were able to survive and provide for their families in the midst of being racially discriminated against. Williams digs beneath the surface of the misguided perceptions of these women and shows the ways in which they were motivated to act and shape political identities on their quests to overcome economic disparities.
With the help of grant funding and many colleagues Williams was able to conduct extensive research. The most credible of her sources though were the accounts of actual experiences from more than fifty women she conducted interviews with. These narratives are unlike others being that they bring visibility to black women with low-incomes that participated in historical black liberation movements. She notes that the typical narratives reflecting on the struggles of black liberation do so by recognizing black women of a middle-class social status. Black women belonging to low-income families played a significant role in reshaping public institutions and Williams reveals their activist experiences.
The opening chapters provide background on the development of public housing, the first being titled “Creating ‘A Little Heaven for Poor People’”. One resident’s recollections of the first public...
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